• Illuminate SG

"Huh, why did you put 'Nursing' as your first choice?"



When Reina Cheong selected Nursing as her first choice in university, she was pleasantly surprised when her parents supported her decision.

“They trust that I am responsible and am able to take charge of my own life,” she writes. “I remember in secondary school while my peers were busy attending tuition classes after school, my parents allowed me to self-study.” Since she was given this freedom, they believed she was responsible for her actions, including those which determined the course of her life. They’ve always been proud of her independent choices, and she didn’t let them down by studying hard to get into the Junior College of her choice.

So why her surprise?


“[My parents] had a good impression of the profession,” Reina says, despite the stigma surrounding it in our society. On an article she had read online on Channel News Asia (CNA), nurses were described as “being treated like high-class maids” in Singapore - a stark contrast to Western countries, where nursing is a dignified profession.

​ Many older adults are unaware that the National University of Singapore offers a Nursing degree, and many are under the impression students choose it because their grades leave them little choice. “This is not true,” Reina writes, “because many of my peers in Nursing have have achieved stellar results and/or were accepted in other courses in other universities as well. But [we] still chose Nursing despite knowing the arduous journey that lies ahead because we know it will be a fruitful one.”


“...many of my peers in Nursing have have achieved stellar results and/or were accepted in other courses in other universities as well. But [we] still chose Nursing despite knowing the arduous journey that lies ahead because we know it will be a fruitful one.”

Even then, the Singaporean society’s undervaluation of its nurses bothered her for a while. When asked what course she was in, she didn’t get many positive reactions. More often that not, people asked with a hint of cynicism, “Why Nursing?”

Such responses felt demeaning. “As unexpected as it may seem, adjusting to a new environment with new people and new subjects are not the biggest setbacks I have faced in my time here thus far, but rather, [it was] the feeling of inadequacy.” It’s hard not to develop this feeling when public notions of what a nurse is are less than dignified, compared to the greater prestige associated with pursuing Medicine or Dentistry.


When one thinks of the word “nurse”, most would conjure up an image of a helper catering to toileting needs and attending to the call bells in a ward. “Patients sometimes doubt our capabilities and will rather speak to a doctor, [refusing] to listen to advice given by a nurse with regards to their conditions,” Reina shares. ​ “Nurses are well-versed and educated, just like doctors, but why are we treated differently? In fact, nurses spend more time with [their] patients, hence we might even know a bit more [about their health].” Beyond their knowledge of patients’ treatment, from personal experience, Reina realised the nurses she had met were also highly attentive to patients’ needs. During her clinical attachment, the nurses who mentored her always had a smile on their faces in whatever they did, and were always delighted to help. “Happinurse” would be a metaphor for them,” she writes.


“Nurses are well-versed and educated, just like doctors, but why are we treated differently? In fact, nurses spend more time with [their] patients, hence we might even know a bit more [about their health].”


Reina loves her curriculum. Despite having spent only a short amount of in university there so far, she found it highly interesting. Learning human anatomy through both textbooks and cadavers alike, and the time spent in tutorials discussing real-life applications of their knowledge meant rote-learning was avoided.


It’s not just discussions in class. Nursing students get great amounts of practice on administering procedures. From nasogastric tube feeding to oxygen therapy, many of such techniques are performed on both simulated and real patients. The latter comes in during her clinical attachments in both polyclinics and hospitals.

Beyond the development of critical thinking and practical skills, students are taught how to communicate effectively with our patients, through realistic scenarios during their tutorials. It’s useful, because nurses can get patients to disclose valuable information they may have left out during their diagnosis. In Reina’s opinion, “the rapport between the nurses and patients will also ameliorate the planning of their care.”


Much more entails nursing than the stereotypes associated with it; it’s got good training provided by local colleges, and is a multifaceted profession. A student can specialise in an area of expertise, such as medical-surgical, wound care and orthopaedics. They can pursue the research, management or education tracks as well.

Reina hopes more people will realise that being a nurse is not only a fulfilling career, but it is also one with many prospects and opportunities. Singapore currently has an ageing population and a shortage of nurses - the demand is high. She is heartened by the increase in the number of people who have made a mid-career switch to nursing.

“Just like any other occupation, there will be hardships. But I am confident that the future of a nurse is bright. And I am certain that if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.”​

At the same time, there is still much to be done to change locals’ perceptions towards nurses. “In future, I hope that they will treat us as equally important medical professionals, just like any other healthcare professionals, and not in any way less."


“Just like any other occupation, there will be hardships. But I am confident that the future of a nurse is bright. And I am certain that if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.”

Written by Koay Tze Min

© 2020 ILLUMINATE SINGAPORE

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